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bonsai soil
soil mixtures
dirt ball
rich soil
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potting soil
japanese art
The Dirt On Kokedama
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The Dirt on Kokedama

Dirt balls. Leave it to the Japanese to raise the humble clod of soil to stardom. Just what is Kokedama? It’s a Japanese art form which creatively showcases plants in containers made of nothing more than dirt balls covered in moss. ”Ko ke” means moss in Japanese and “dama” loosely translates to ball so there you have it: moss ball.

A poor man’s bonsai. Kokedama has been popular in the Japanese culture for hundreds of years and can trace its roots back to the art of bonsai and the Japanese floral arranging art of Ikebana. It’s even been called the poor man’s bonsai due to its simple and inexpensive technique: anyone can make a dirt ball. Recently kokedama has gained popularity with the hip, young crowd for its quirky, fresh and sometimes surprising designs. Slowly kokedama is getting noticed world wide.

Begin with the dirt ball. The most important ingredient for your Kokedama is the soil. It takes a special mixture of hard, dense and clay rich soil to keep the mixture together along with lighter, peat-rich soil to retain the moisture. Often experimenting with bagged garden soil and potting soil mixtures will result in a hardy dirt ball for your Kokedama. Some find special bonsai soil, akadama, mixed with potting soil works well.

What plant to use? Really any plant you like can work in a Kokedama, however, keep in mind that the moss wrapped around the ball of soil does not like heavy sun. Long branched and lacy plants look great and lend to a more interesting design.

Is there a method to the design? There is no uniform method to Kokedama. But keep in mind most Japanese have grown up understanding the art of Ikebana and use these principals to help create the most dynamic and artful Kokedama pieces. Ikebana stresses the importance of creating a balance between the plant and the empty space around the plant. In Ikebana symmetry is frowned upon since it appears more stagnant and less energized. Another principal of Ikebana concerns the design of lines that branches and leaves create and the empty spaces inside the lines. We in the Western world often go about floral arranging much differently and it’s not the minimalist approach. In the Japanese art of floral arranging, or Ikebana, there are many rules to help create balance and beauty.

How to display your Kokedama. In Ikebana, the container you chose to display your arrangement is just as important as the arrangement itself. For that reason, containers are chosen with much consideration. If you choose to let your Kokedama stand, pick a very shallow container, or decorative plate so as not to hide any of the moss ball. You can also hang your Kokedama with twine or fishing line. String gardens are a unique and fun way to display your work of art.

Plants in moss-covered dirt balls are a thing of beauty and a work of art. Kokedama are easy to make and fun to display. They’re great for apartment dwellers since they don’t take up much room and caring for a Kokedama is easy. Why not make one this winter and add a bit of garden bling to your home?


Street Talk

I'm wondering if I could adapt one of these for my Pergola

Reply
  about 9 years ago

Next time someone calls me a dirt ball, I'll take it as a compliment. More great writing, Lisa. Your humorous first sentence captures the reader's attention right out of the gate. Are you sure you can't stay here in the U.S.? :-)

Reply
  about 9 years ago

another nice article Lisa

Reply
  about 9 years ago
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